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Liver Transpl. 2018 Jan;24(1):122-139. doi: 10.1002/lt.24958.

Exercise and physical activity for patients with end-stage liver disease: Improving functional status and sarcopenia while on the transplant waiting list.

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Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
Department of Gastroenterology, Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Médicas y Nutrición "Salvador Zubirán,", Mexico City, Mexico.
Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.
Department of Geriatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR.
Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford, CA.


Sarcopenia and physical deconditioning are frequent complications in patients with cirrhosis and end-stage liver disease (ESLD). They are the end result of impaired dietary intake, chronic inflammation, altered macronutrient and micronutrient metabolism, and low physical activity. Frailty is the end result of prolonged sarcopenia and physical deconditioning. It severely affects a patient's functional status and presents in approximately 1 in 5 patients on the liver transplantation waiting list. Sarcopenia, poor physical fitness/cardiopulmonary endurance (CPE), and frailty are all associated with increased mortality in ESLD. Clinical trials addressing the usefulness of exercise in patients with cirrhosis have shown that it improves the metabolic syndrome, sarcopenia, CPE, health-related quality of life, and hepatic venous pressure gradient. Although evidence on the benefits of exercise on clinical outcomes derived from large clinical trials is still missing, based on existing literature from multiple medical subspecialties, we believe that an exercise program coupled to a tailored nutritional intervention benefits both cardiopulmonary and musculoskeletal functions, ultimately translating into improved functional status, sense of well-being, and possibly less complications from portal hypertension. In conclusion, although supervised exercise training is the prevailing approach to manage ESLD patients, such intervention is not sustainable or feasible for most patients. Innovative home-based physical activity interventions may be able to effectively reach a larger number of patients. Liver Transplantation 24 122-139 2018 AASLD.

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